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  1. Magic Touch / Beating Hearts [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD)  (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Magic Touch / Beating Hearts [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) King & Prince
    The two sides of King & Prince
    May 31, 2021 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Since their debut in 2018, King & Prince has personified the characteristic Johnny's look and sound for a newer generation. Their image is youthful, fresh-faced and princely, and their singles are mostly very bright and very pop in that warm, familiar and dated Johnny's way. Last year's Mazy Night, however, showed that King & Prince would very much suit an edgier look and more updated sound. And that edgier look and sound comes this year in the single Magic Touch. Magic Touch is co-composed by Adrian McKinnon, who is known for his work on SM artist songs like EXO's Obsession and NCT 127's Superhuman. This song is a total bop from the moment its beats slide in, and Hirano Sho sets the tone... [read more]
  2. DOWN TOWN / Ganbarenaiyo [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) DOWN TOWN / Ganbarenaiyo [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Juice=Juice
    Fun update of a city pop classic
    April 29, 2021 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Juice=Juice has often sounded like a girl group from a different era, because their music digs very squarely into the standard idol J-pop sound, even in comparison to other Hello! Project groups. Last year, they went deliberately old school with the single Pop Music, which playfully referenced kayo pop music of yesteryear. Now they bring a cover of Sugar Babe's 1975 city pop classic DOWN TOWN for their first single of the year. City pop has seen a revival of late. Whether it's old songs going viral or younger artists reinterpreting the genre, the nostalgic sound has found a new audience, and not just in Japan. As the OG of all city pop, Sugar Babe's DOWN TOWN has been covered many times... [read more]
  3. Dramatic ni Kanpai  (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Dramatic ni Kanpai (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Yamamoto Sayaka
    From Idol to Singer-Songwriter
    February 27, 2021 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    I had high hopes for Yamamoto Sayaka when she started her post-NMB career, because she's been one of the few 48 graduates to have both the established popularity and the legitimate musical and vocal talents to make it as a solo artist. She hasn't disappointed. In the past two years, Sayaka has built a credible and consistent body of work that solidifies her transition from idol to singer-songwriter. Like with her past singles, all three tracks on her latest Dramatic ni Kanpai single are self-written and self-composed. While characteristic of Sayaka's style of medium-tempo ballads and rock, Dramatic ni Kanpai ("Dramatically Toast") also stands out from her past singles with its carefree vibe... [read more]
  4. BETTER [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD)  (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) BETTER [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Twice (Korea)
    Twice makes it Better
    November 30, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Twice has been on fire with their two recent comebacks. I adore the throwback bop I Can't Stop Me from their recent Korean album Eyes Wide Open, but I might like their new Japanese single Better even more. Like I Can't Stop Me, Better has an old-school disco vibe, but this goes in a sultrier direction with pulsing club beats, silky melody and lyrics expressing longing and desire. As catchy and upbeat as Twice's usual hits but also more mature, the song is co-written and co-composed by Lauren Kaori, who has worked on the group's Polish, Pink Lemonade and Stay By My Side, not to mention many E-girls songs. Better's moody verses and impactful yet melodic chorus showcase one of Twice's best... [read more]
  5. It's my life/ PINEAPPLE [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) It's my life/ PINEAPPLE [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) V6
    V6's 25th anniversary single
    September 24, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    This year is V6's 25th anniversary, and as their latest single proves, they've still got it. For better or worse, the Johnny's world has evolved a lot in the past few years, but V6 seems to be the quiet constant as they keep on doing their own thing. The group's 25th anniversary double A-side single brings two very different new songs that I love equally. It's my life is just what I need to hear on a Friday. The upbeat, uptempo song has a bright, easy-going vibe with its pop-rockish melody and life-affirming lyrics. Written by Miyata "Lefty" Ryo, the song's down-to-earth and reassuring words for the everyday workaholic deserve special mention. For all those stressed-out souls working late... [read more]
  6. Tousaku  (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Tousaku (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Yorushika
    The Man Who Steals Music
    July 31, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Awarded Best New Artist at the 34th Gold Disc Awards, Yorushika was one of last year's greatest music discoveries. The duo formed by producer n-buna and vocalist suis released two excellent albums in 2019, That's Why I Gave Up on Music and Elma, that told an interconnected story. This year, they're back with a new musical story in Tousaku. Most musicians would probably stay far away from the word Plagiarism, but Yorushika made it the title and theme of their third full album. Plagiarism's main character is a "man who steals music." Using music to tell a story of the emotional tempest and destructive impulses of its main character, the album also explores and challenges what creating and... [read more]
  7. Hadaka no Kokoro (Japan Version) Hadaka no Kokoro (Japan Version) Aimyon
    Aimyon's heart-baring ballad
    June 29, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Aimyon got her break in 2018 with the singles Marigold and Konya Kono Mama, which both went platinum digitally. Her singles after that, like Haru no Hi and Her Blue Sky, mainly followed a similar style of catchy and refreshing guitar-driven pop rock. The singer-songwriter's latest Hadaka no Kokoro ("Naked Heart"), however, is a bit different as it's her first ballad single. Aimyon actually wrote "Naked Heart" back in 2017, and she especially chose this older work to be her tenth single and her theme song for the TV drama My Housekeeper, Mr. Nagisa. The song's clean and soothing melody is introduced with simple piano chords, and then enriched with a gentle blend of string, percussion and... [read more]
  8. Aozora (Japan Version) Aozora (Japan Version) aiko
    Bright yet blue
    February 28, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Just based on the title and visuals of aiko's single Aozora, one would probably expect it to be a bright and sunny song fitting of its lovely "Blue Sky." The song's melody, as well, is light in rhythm and tone with a soothingly refreshing arrangement that creates a chipper feeling. However, the singer-songwriter's lyrics tell a different story about looking back with mixed feelings on a love that has ended – that blue sky is distorted and invisible before teary, unfocused eyes. Rather than being bright and blue, Aozora is bright yet blue. The single's new B-side, Koibito Doshi ni (Track 3), is also a light-sounding confection of love and worries, but it reaches a more rose-tinted... [read more]
  9. Kanashiki Pro Bowler (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Kanashiki Pro Bowler (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Kuwata Keisuke | Kuwata Keisuke & The Pin Boys
    Take me out to the bowling alley
    February 13, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    In 2019, Kuwata Keisuke took his love for bowling to a new level by putting his name and face on a national bowling tournament, the Kuwata Cup. Bowling aside, the legendary artist also formed the special new unit Kuwata Keisuke & The Pin Boys to release Kuwata Cup 2019's official song Let's Go Bowling, which is basically an entire song dedicated to the virtues of bowling. A year later, the Kuwata Cup is back, and so are Kuwata Keisuke & The Pin Boys! While Let's Go Bowling is a fun jingle, it's impossible to take a song too seriously when it opens with the lines "I like bowling, I like bowling." Kuwata Keisuke & The Pin Boys' wonderful second single, however, is far more than a novelty... [read more]
  10. Bessekai (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Bessekai (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) E-girls
    E-girls' first single of their final year
    January 31, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    E-girls broke fan hearts last December with the announcement that the group would be disbanding in 2020 (why, LDH, why?). As if to drive in just what J-pop will be missing out on, E-girls' first single of their final year is a total jam. Bessekai ("Another World") embodies the sound that E-girls does best: edgy, contemporary yet fun electro dance numbers with a finger on the urban pulse. The song's intricate and invigorating electronic beats stand out energetically, and there is an understated fierceness to its buildup and catchy chorus that really rouses the spirits of the listener. Bessekai is composed by Henrik Nordenback, Christian Fast and Ellen Berg, the same team behind 2017's Love... [read more]
  11. Weathering With You complete version  (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Weathering With You complete version (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) RADWIMPS
    Weathering with Radwimps
    November 29, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    From Your Name to Weathering with You, Radwimps' music has been an integral and memorable element of Shinkai Makoto's animated blockbusters. The band's alternative rock numbers add a pop of energy to the youth fantasy stories while the ballads accentuate the heartrending emotions of love and loss. Weathering with You's original soundtrack was released back in July along with the film's theatrical release. However, the soundtrack carried the shorter movie edit versions of the vocal songs. Arriving five months later, Weathering with You complete version brings the full versions of the five songs. This complete version is obviously appealing for those who enjoyed the music while watching... [read more]
  12. Itsumono Fuukei  (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Itsumono Fuukei (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Saito Kazuyoshi
    Saito Kazuyoshi x Chibi Maruko-chan
    November 21, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Saito Kazuyoshi and Chibi Maruko-chan is the collaboration I didn't know I needed! The singer-songwriter brings smiles to faces with Itsumo no Fuukei, the 12th ending theme of the iconic anime series. This delightfully upbeat and folksy rock ditty lifts spirits with plucky beats and a jovial rhythm. Notably, the lyrics about a town's everyday scenery are by late Chibi Maruko-chan creator Momoko Sakura, who especially had Saito in mind when she wrote the song. Saito's light melody and whimsical, energizing arrangement really suit the lyrics and the timeless everyday charm of the anime series. The single's side tracks build on the wistful, nostalgic feel with two slower and melancholic guitar... [read more]
  13. ECHO [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD)  (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) ECHO [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Little Glee Monster
    Little Glee Monster on fire
    September 30, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    As the host country of the Rugby World Cup 2019, Japan pulled off a major upset victory over powerhouse Ireland this past weekend. Now I'm no rugby fan, but I am a big fan of NHK's theme song for the World Cup – Little Glee Monster's ECHO. A sporting event support song should rouse up the fighting spirit of the listener, and ECHO does exactly that from the very first note. Written and composed by Imai Ryosuke, the song begins straight away with cheering and clapping that gets you fired up. The first verse rings loud and clear with poignant lyrics remembering the shared experience of sweat and tears: "The moment when our eyes meet, there's no need to exchange words / our heart's beating... [read more]
  14. Summer Trap!! (Japan Version) Summer Trap!! (Japan Version) WANIMA
    Summer spirit
    July 23, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Summer just doesn't feel right without some energizing driving rock songs to blast at full volume, and Wanima has come through with exactly that in their summer EP. The band broke out last year with their loud and exuberant blend of pop punk, ska, reggae and rock. Now they add an exclamation point to summer with Summer Trap!! The album's lead track Natsu no Dokoka e (Track 1) lifts spirits right away with a flurry of drum beats and guitar riffs. The punk pop ditty never takes a rest over its screamy and infectiously uptempo four-minute anthem to summer. It's no wonder the song was used for a Mitsuya Cider commercial because it nails the positive, refreshing and slightly wistful vibe of... [read more]
  15. VOICE (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) VOICE (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Tae Yeon (Girls' Generation)
    In love with Tae Yeon's Voice
    June 13, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Twelve years into her career, Tae Yeon finally makes her Japan solo debut, and what's more, it's with an original album! While the album title Voice seems to hark back to her 2017 Korean album My Voice, the album's tracks are new, not remakes. Though it's her first Japanese album, Voice actually has a primarily Western pop sound, and a quick glance at the credits shows American, British and Swedish composers and producers across the board. The album's title track Voice (Track 1) is co-composed and produced by Matthew Tishler, a frequent SM collaborator whose credits include Tae Yeon's Make Me Love You and Rain. I fell in love with the song basically from the first line of "All the voices in... [read more]
  16. Ichirinsou (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Ichirinsou (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Yamamoto Sayaka
    Yamamoto Sayaka, Solo Artist
    April 27, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    In Yamamoto Sayaka's eight years with NMB48, she was not only one of the most popular members of the AKB48 Group, but also one of the very few to be known for her vocal and musical talents. As an NMB48 member, she released two solid solo albums, with 2017's identity in particular standing out as my favorite 48 member solo album to date. After graduating from NMB48 in October 2018, Sayaka begins her solo artist career with the self-penned single Ichirinsou, which builds on the musicality she showed in identity. Sayaka wrote and composed the mellow, medium-tempo ballad Ichirinsou. The title and lyrics refer to an anemone flower that becomes a symbol of strength and inspiration. While walking... [read more]
  17. Kuroi Hitsuji  [Type A] (SINGLE+BLU-RAY) (Japan Version) Kuroi Hitsuji [Type A] (SINGLE+BLU-RAY) (Japan Version) Sakurazaka46
    Song of the Black Sheep
    February 28, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Keyakizaka46 delivers another powerfully empathetic and dissonant teen anthem in their new single Kuroi Hitsuji. As indicated by the title, this song is for all the "black sheep" out there. In comparison to singles like Garasu wo Ware! and Fukyouwaon, the song's sound is softer and more melodic, but the themes are no less incisive and impactful. Kuroi Hitsuji opens moodily with somber piano chords, and then picks up the tempo in low-pitched verses tightly packed with the suffocating feelings of being that person who doesn't fit in – and doesn't want to. The lyrics offer simple yet specific examples and experiences that connect readily with listeners: taking the long way home to avoid... [read more]
  18. Boku no Koto (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Boku no Koto (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Mrs. GREEN APPLE
    A song for the good days and the bad days
    January 31, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Everyone could use an encouraging song to start out the new year with, and my theme song for this tiring January was Mrs. GREEN APPLE's Boku no Koto. As a support song for Japan's national high school soccer tournament, Boku no Koto naturally carries an inspiring message to cheer on young people, but it's not exactly a cheerily positive song. Instead, the song delivers empathy and reassurance for both the good days and the bad days. Opening quietly with a soothing guitar melody and gentle vocals, Boku no Koto connects with softly self-reflecting lyrics in the first verse: "What's the difference between me and you? / I know that we're all living creatures / But I'm frightened by something."... [read more]
  19. Mirai no Theme / Uta no Kisha (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Mirai no Theme / Uta no Kisha (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Yamashita Tatsuro
    Music from Mirai, Sounds from the Past
    September 6, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    When I first heard Yamashita Tatsuro's latest single, I smiled at the singer-songwriter's timeless ability to write new songs that sound like old songs. At the time, I had not yet watched Hosoda Mamoru's animated feature film Mirai for which the songs were made. After watching Mirai, I now smile at the songs for capturing the sentiments of the film so perfectly in melody form. Yamashita previously created the beautiful theme song Bokura no Natsu no Yume for Hosoda's 2009 film Summer Wars (an acoustic live version of that song is included on this single). For Mirai, he made the theme song Mirai no Theme ("Theme of Mirai") and ending theme Uta no Kisha ("Music Train"), which are delightful... [read more]
  20. Ryuusei / Yakusoku (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Ryuusei / Yakusoku (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Aoi Eir
    Aoi Eir makes strong return from hiatus
    June 14, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    After being on hiatus for all of 2017 for health reasons, Aoi Eir returns this year with her signature clear-voiced rock-flavored pop in her 14th double A-side single of Yakusoku and Ryuusei. Yakusoku ("Promise") was unveiled online in February to announce her return. Aoi co-wrote the soaring medium-tempo ballad with frequent collaborator Shigenaga Ryosuke, who also composed and arranged. From the first line, one can already tell that she poured her feelings during hiatus into the lyrics: "In the normalcy of daily life / I suddenly realized that I was singing." Aoi directs the song's simple and sincere message of longing and gratitude to the fans who waited for her and gave her strength to... [read more]
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